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Monday, February 5, 2007

Where the rubber meets the -- no, wait

You know what's funny? When the car-hating, streetcar-infatuated planners of the Portland metro area meet up with the gas-guzzling, asphalt-laying planners in the Federal Highway Administration. You probably caught this in the O last week, but recently Portland's regional government Metro was required to submit a transportation plan to the highway agency, and it did.

But the feds were shocked to find that it didn't have any highways in it.

According to the feds, Metro is too focused on "land use, human health, and the environment," and not enough on basic transportation needs, like highways, cars, and parking.

We'd like to welcome the Federal Highway Administration to Portland! This is how things tend to go these days -- we're laying off road crews and hiring aerial tram concierges -- but you're wrong about our focus.

Think condos. Thousands and thousands and thousands of condos.

Comments (73)

First, is it really a surprise that the Federal Highway Administration likes to see highways, regardless of the wisdom of building them?

Second, is it really so bad to be accused of focusing too much on human health and the environment? Somehow, I think that when your kids grow up, they won't complain too much if you hold off on building more highways because you were concerned about the environment.

Jud, watch your comments..the Karlock is going to come after you...just wait....

I think more notable than the FHA complaining was that Metro is basically giving the FHA the f'u.

With DeFazio in charge of the tranportation subcommitte, I doubt what the FHA thinks, really matters.

But Jud, does is it really environmentally sound not to look realistically at the traffic impacts of all the condo development? Vehicles idling in transportation bottlenecks hardly contribute to a healthy environment. DeFazio is not illogical, imho, and I would hope he could see beyond PR hype to look at these problems.

My kids won't want to live in a barren condo tower wasteland.

And both organizations are focused on Growth.

I'm not impressed by either organization, because both are about creating more, more, more--be it condos, roads, or Pearl Districts.

My kids won't want to live in a barren condo tower wasteland.

What an interesting thought. Urban planners a generation ago thought we could just stack folks to the sky. Poor people, mostly. But then those developments became neglected and crime ridden. No one wanted to live there. Fifteen years ago, the generation ahead of mine decided to start knocking those towers down and putting up smaller, single-family homes. My generation has decided that once again stacking folks to the sky is the answer. What will your kids think of our decision?


DeFazio heading up Transportation? Can we say "pork"? Is everybody up for elevated bike paths? I'm personally expecting a tram from my front door to work...when?

How about those "personal hovercraft" promised by Popular Mechanics? When can we expect those?

I guess we don't have "highways" here...just really, really wide bike paths.

When can we expect those?

I wondered the same thing as I wandered The Vegas Strip on the Newmanium. The running joke among my buddies and me was "where do we go to get our jet packs?" Good times.

is it really a surprise that the Federal Highway Administration likes to see highways, regardless of the wisdom of building them?

I hope the CoP planners arent surprised...after all they are asking the Federal Highway folks for money to build...trains.

That should be Metro planners, not CoP...sorry...

Don't apologize. With the eight layers of planners we have in Portland, it's easy to get confused.

Chris, I think it was the behavior of the people inside the developments that led to the problems you describe. The housing projects of which you speak were a replacement for unsafe tenements - so in that sense they were good - but they concentrated bad behavior and allowed it to flourish. That was not so good. But it wasn't the buildings, it was the people inside perpetuating the bad behavior. If those same people had lived in regular houses, I think many would have had trouble because of the behavioral choices they make/made.

What these new developments will do isn't concentrate crime - they will concentrate the wine and cheese crowd into a narrow area (and therefore, away from the rest of us). So, really, it's a public service - instead of having to live near one, they're all safely in another part of town.

Jack, you're sure your kids will want the hassles of taking care of a yard? Honestly, that's one reason I haven't bought a house...my rent is cheap and I can put my retained earnings into investments with a better return. Plus, on the weekends, I'm free to travel and have a life instead of worrying about downspouts and whatnot. My friends who own houses always seem to be working on them, and can't come out and play. Maybe I'm the grasshopper and they're the ants, but right now, life is sweet...

I guess we don't have "highways" here...just really, really wide bike paths.

Must be, now that they want us to go across the double yellow into the oncoming lane on highways to give bikes clearance.

Next they will want us to slow to match the speed of bikes on the highway.

Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads.

the hassles of taking care of a yard

If I wanted to live in an apartment and commute to work on public transit, I probably wouldn't do it in a town like Portland. I'd more likely go somewhere where you can make some real money, participate in a serious way in the global economy, see world-class art, enjoy major league sports and performing arts of all kinds, etc.

Portland's a great town in many ways, but for me many of its best assets are symbolized by the single-family, owner-occupied home with a yard, and authentic neighborhood joints. Ripping that out and putting in the Synthetic Pearl all over town just wrecks the place.

Just my taste, of course...

"You dont need money, dont take fame
Don't need no credit card to ride this tram."

"the single-family, owner-occupied home with a yard"

OK. If we accept this model as the only acceptable form for new construction, then there are only two choices:

1) keep moving the urban growth boundary outwards, chewing up open space (which destroys some of what people live here for, which is the ability to get to nature quickly)

2) halt new construction, which raises prices and reduces affordability for new entrants (which destroys some of what people live here for, which is the ability to enjoy the benefits of Portland regardless of income)

Other than that, the only solution is to prevent people from moving here, which is going to be hard to do. The reason? People who live in major metros like LA and NY who are just starting to think about having kids are fleeing those cities because they're overcrowded with new immigrants, too expensive to live in and the school systems are largely horrible. (Read Sandra Tsing Loh's hilarious "guide to the LA school system," where she describes the "steady stream to Portland" of parents who've given up on educating their kids in LA schools.)

So, unfortunately, as long as that remains the case, there's going to be a steady stream of demand for new housing in Portland. The question is, what form does it take. So that brings us back to our options:

1) chew up open space, eliminating nature
2) restrict new building, pushing up prices

So, in that sense, the condos-along-major-corridors-for-the-people-who-want-it doesn't seem so bad to me. At least, it's the least bad option.

Would love responses to this post.

They could just remove the UGB have cheap housing and sprawl for literally fifty plus miles from downtown.

Kinda like other really liveable cities like...

Los Angeles,

You know, the places where you drive 50+ miles a day to do basic things for life needs, drive 50+ miles to go do some fun stuff, drive a dozen or so miles for the daily commute. Spend 400-700 dollars a month on fuel for those real active people.

Spend 2-4 days a year in ones car. Yeah, those places are frickin great. Maybe those that like that type of thing can go gain that 50 lbs and drive their cars?

Adron: Maybe people WANT to do all of that.

I know I do.

Do you have a problem with that?

My kids won't want to live in a barren condo tower wasteland.

Even if the condos all connected with bike paths, streetcars, and caffeine addled yuppies bragging about their fractional flexcar stake and Hood River timeshares?


Actually, I do have a problem with that. Because if I'm forced to drive through non-stop suburbs on an eight lane highway to get to Timberline Lodge or Cannon Beach, then yeah, I would say my quality of life would be reduced (as would the author of this blog, I'm guessing).

I'm not sure I understand. Are we actually supposed to be bothered by the fact that our local government is prioritizing human health and the environment over more highways? In case anyone missed it, a study at USC published last month showed that children living within 500 yards of freeways in Southern California had up to 10% less lung capacity than normal by age 18. Are we supposed to be ok with that? Clambering for more? The metro area currently has 139 miles of freeway. That means approximately 80 square miles of land in which it is unsafe to raise children. And it's not too good for the rest of us, either. Is that not a problem for anyone else?

Oh, and there's also 2 billion dollar bridge to Vancouver currently in the planning stages. 2 billion dollars. Nine zeros. That's 35 times the cost of the tram. Again: 35 times. Where's the outrage on that one?

"bragging about their fractional flexcar stake and Hood River timeshares"

Mr. Tee - what if they didn't do that? In other words, is it the BEHAVIOR of the "yuppies" or is it the buildings they live in? Again, we're conflating the two when they're actually separate issues, I think.

How often has this actually happened (the flexcar/Hood River thing)? What types of conversations would you prefer? What types of behavior do we want to live around?

If someone starts talking about flexcar and Hood River, why does that cause pain? For me, it doesn't. Maybe I'm just secure in my surroundings, but what I hear other people discussing in terms of possessions has no effect on my life. It doesn't make me want a flexcar or a Hood River timeshare more. If they want to spend their money, whatever.


If you want to protect your rural drive to recreation, I would suggest buying up all of the land with your own money and leaving it as it is.

Why do you feel that your scenery preferences should be accommodated by tax paying land owners? This is a good reason why M37 passed.


I don't have any objection to the M37 passing - HOWEVER, if you put up a straight ahead ballot measure asking people to repeal the UGB, it wouldn't pass.

The passage of M37 and the repeal of the UGB are two entirely different subjects. I don't mind M37 all that much, actually...

And ask the author of this blog if he wants an eight-lane fast food strip mall drive on 26 from the edge of Sandy to Govt Camp and from the 6 junction to the 101. That's why we have the UGB - to protect open space like that. And a majority of Oregonians would agree with me, I'm sure.

"I think more notable than the FHA complaining was that Metro is basically giving the FHA the f'u."

Brilliant, ask the FHA for money and then give them the f-u.

Shouldn't MarkDaMan be focused on his CoP job at 145 in the afternoon since he is not too great at learning how to deal with people?

Why do you feel that your scenery preferences should be accommodated by tax paying land owners? This is a good reason why M37 passed.

Because that's what the zoning for the area cited [corridor to Mt. Hood] calls out - it isn't residential. Even M37, wrong as it is, allows the zoning applicable at the time the acquisition was made, to stand.

Unless you'tre saying that zoning ordinances should be struck down?

I love it! The great Portland debate! We are who we elect. On our current pace, Metro and the City will declare autos an illegal form of transportation within the UGB. Think of all those parking garages that can be converted (with a 25 year prop tax freeze)to condo towers.

Morgan: to the best of my googlesearch knowledge, there are no "timeshares" in Hood River (it's too small, and there are no large scale resorts)...My point is that regional gridlock (or the eventual prohibition of personal transportation modalities) will limit the distance people can travel for a weekend getaway.

I have nothing against yuppies...some of my best friends are yuppies. That said, I am vehemently opposed to using tax credits/TIF financing/public subsidies to foster additional yuppy enclaves.

If the City of Portland wanted to convert the South Waterfront into a Yuppie Disneyland, they could have done so without a nickel of investment from OHSU (itself publicly funded) or "seed money" from the city's coffers. And each new reference to "affordable housing" just makes me realize what a two-faced liar Sten has become.

The ethereal "10,000 Biotech Jobs" seem less and less important as each new condo tower tops out. The fact remains the only new job creation in SoWhat (beside the construction workers) are parking lot shuttle bus drivers, deli workers, interior decorators, and health club personal trainers. Hardly the creative class foundation of the new economy.

The condo tower-urban sprawl either-or is a bunch of hooey being sold to Portland by the likes of Homer Williams and Neil Goldschmidt. There is plenty of room for decent housing in Portland at three stories high or lower.

I'm not against building apartments. I wouldn't live in one, but I understand that they need to be built. It would be nice if from the literally hundreds of people we employ in government doing land use regulation, we could get something consistent with the history and character of Portland.

As for not adding a single lane of freeway as the population of the area has exploded -- well, that's just cr*p.

T -

Glad you like yuppies, but your comment made it seem as though you were harboring resentment against the people inside the buildings and their (imagined?) behavior.

"regional gridlock (or the eventual prohibition of personal transportation modalities) will limit the distance people can travel for a weekend getaway"

Again, this goes back to the fundamental choice - chew up open space or restrict development but push up prices (or allow infill). Since the external forces I described above elsewhere around the country (anxiety about living in LA/NY/other metros) do exist, people *will * continue to move here.

Unless you have a solution to prevent that from happening...

"There is plenty of room for decent housing in Portland at three stories high or lower."

Sorry, I didn't see this response before I posted...and this is new information for me, Jack. You are in favor of development at three stories or less, then! Learn something new every day...

"consistent with the history and character of Portland"

Now this is a toughie...who decides what that is? I think we should have votes by web! :) Restrict them to people with Portland-area zip codes, of course...

Oh, and there's also 2 billion dollar bridge to Vancouver currently in the planning stages. 2 billion dollars. Nine zeros. That's 35 times the cost of the tram. Again: 35 times. Where's the outrage on that one?

A bridge across the Columbia actually helps hundreds of thousands of everyday people. A tram helps a few dozen rich guys get richer.

I'm not sure if the denizens of the inner part of Portland would be too excited about more freeway lanes through their neighborhood.

You know that ramp off the east end of the Fremont Bridge that terminates at Emanuel Hospital? That was supposed to connect to the Fremont Freeway, which intersected with the NE 21st Ave Freeway, which made its way north to a Columbia River crossing.

With the exception of JK, would others support these kind of measures to "unclog" our current traffic arteries?

I'd be satisfied with 3 lanes throughout on all Portland freeways (26, 205, 84, 5, 217), with HOV designation in one of the lanes at rush hour, and a new Columbia bridge. But after that, you're at risk of becoming LA.

wouldn't it be stunning if "no more growth, instead proceed slowly and change our standards" were an option?

no. of course not. growth is "inevitable". it's pursued for its own sake, which is such a pathological and self-destructive behavior.

wonder what we'll do in a few decades with a million additional people? wonder how tall we'll build buildings then? 100 stories? 150? all day rush hours? housing shortages?

oh wait. That's New York City. we'll just add a bike lane.

Ecohuman -

I'm not necessarily in favor of more growth. But I'm just observing that its coming. (Don't shoot the messenger)

The reasons why growth is coming are numerous. We allow millions of additional immigrants (rightly or wrongly) inside our borders every year. They are largely moving to major metro areas, rendering them more crowded. That, among other things, is making some people want to leave those major metros areas. Many of them want to come to Portland. That's largely why we're growing (if Portland's growth was based just on natural increase [births - deaths], we'd be growing a lot slower).

I haven't reproduced yet, but I did marry an immigrant (legally), so maybe I am part of the problem. But short of China's one child policy or building a border fence and deporting all those immigrants already here, what is your proposed solution?

Stop building housing altogether? Let rents and house prices inflate to where they're comparable with those in all the other West Coast cities? If builders weren't slapping up so much nouveau, particle board cr*p, maybe this wouldn't be so (relatively) cheap and attractive an area in which to relocate.

An alternative plan, which is what is apparently being pursued, is to destroy neighborhood character, make traffic impossible, and create an atmosphere that is hostile to job creation. That, too, will keep some people away, I suppose.


Doesn't your first plan make it harder for the middle class to enjoy life in Portland?

Not if you're already here and own your home.

The second plan is bad for everyone except the developers.

What about those who don't own homes? Are they consigned to rent forever?

Also, I believe your first plan does cover rises in rents, too - which would make Portland less affordable even for non-homeowners. So if we stop building, lower income people would be forced to leave, making Portland an SF-like enclave for the rich. That is, unless you advocate rent control...

One more thought...I also wonder how businesses expand and hire new employees under the "no more new housing construction" plan. They can't bring new workers in because they'll be unable to afford a home close in...so they'll likely leave for another city where its cheaper to do business. Remember, businesses pay rent too! :)

Don't worry, there are enough businesses leaving here to make room for the new people.

What will the new people do for work, then?

Um, I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but we already have sprawl aplenty, with much more on the way. Driving a cab here, I get to travel to many far-flung corners of the huge PDX metro area, and, believe me, there are hordes of people literally pouring into this place. Many of them are fleeing the broken-beyond repair disaster called California, and can you blame them ? Clark County has huge, entirely new neighborhoods and freeway systems that did not exist 6 years ago, with many more on the way. Many of the new arrivals in Portland's suburbs have no intention of using MAX, as they can afford a car, regardless of how much you or I approve of this.

The artificial UGB, by it's very definition, will result in much higher housing costs, as well as this "higher density" our self-appointed social engineers love to sing the praises of. See, in Portland proper, higher density development is indeed occuring...but it is all condos for the ultra-elite. Lower-end apartments for younger and poorer people are simply not being constructed in the urban core at all...as long as the UGB steeply inflates land values, why would they be ? A few token gestures for derelicts and professional beggars in the Pearl are not the same as substantial amounts of 5-story brick apartment buildings for ordinary working-class folk.

Ironic, huh ? I'm sure that the people who voted for the UGB 30-some years ago are doing quite well with their properties in the Hawthorne and Belmont area. Those of us who are not multi-millionaires will all be forced out to the suburbs within 5 to 10 years. The very people who make Portland what it is will be priced right out of the central city, much more quickly than you think.

All those people who work 4 days a week as a barista or whatever while producing art and music on the side-gone. When you have to work 55 or 60 hours a week just to pay the rent, you have no time left over for creative pursuits. Bye-bye, creative class.

Me, I'm re-evaluating the long-term viability of even staying here...it just doesn't look like there will be a place left for those of us who are not very, very wealthy, unless we want to live in some shitty crime-infested Rockwood ghetto particleboard-plex full of toothless meth-addled hicks and illegal aliens crammed 12 to an apartment.

And, as far as highways go, you have to realize that Portland is also a major shipping hub in addition to a "New Urbanist" yuppie petri dish. Lots of goods come and go from here via rail and water, though much less via waterways than there should be, these days. Many of these goods then depart for other places from PDX on trucks, large and small. These goods cannot be shipped via MAX and the streetcar.

We are headed towards gridlock very, very quickly, and all the free trolleys in the works for wealthy condo dwellers will do nothing for this problem. In fact, the longer we neglect expanding our badly outmoded and worn-out highway infrastructure, the worse it is going to be when are FORCED to expand it by sheer numbers of new residents and continued commercial trucking.

Doug Roberts; your point is lacking. The I-5 bridge improvements will move more than the 35 times the number of tram riders; by a lot.

What will the new people do for work, then?

Why, work for the 'State of Portland', of course! After all, nobody seems to give a crap about the rest of the state.
As for "preserving" land? Just how much needs to be preserved? Because as it is now, we only live about 4% of the land in this state. Could we use a little more? Hell, even if we double it, we're at 8%. Still doesnt seem too bad...

Cabbie's concerns are why I'm not in favor of Jack's recommendation to stop new housing construction. If we did that, the cost of living and doing business in Portland would rise significantly, to a point where all goods and services would see a significant rise in inflation. Portland, would, in essence become like other isolated expensive economic islands, like Carmel, Sausalito, et al.

Thank you all for the discussion. It was nice to hash this out.

My big issue with density i sgridlock is just commensurate with it - no matter how many light rail tram projects you have. SUpplies need to get in/out of town, a lot of people have service jobs and trollies don't run everywhere there are jobs no matter what you do.

A better way would be hubs with lower density (like Hillsboro) where people can buy housing within 5 mintues of work. I know this drives some people nuts who think Portland is the top of the cultrual heap (like City Council), but density is not doing society any favors. If you look at employment, the 3 biggest employers downtown (=light-rail central) are government and the fastest growing places are way out of downtown.

As far as hashing things out, it sounds more like you're implying nothing besides condos and light-rail would work.

A better way would be hubs with lower density (like Hillsboro)

Have you seen the new construction in Hillsboro? Most of it is "Transit-oriented development" along the MAX line. If its not apartments or condo farms, its rowhouses on single-lane "roads" with no room to park cars. Funny thing is, a lot of those "rowhouse" developments have become rentals because nobody wanted to buy them to live in.

I notice that a year-long study by New York planners, scientists and environmentalists concludes that, even with 54% public transit ridership, NYC faces all-day rush-hour traffic and gridlock within the next 12-20 years; also serious electricity shortages and a critical lack of affordable housing (even to the middle class). (search Google).

And this even if NYC cuts electricity consumption by half in that period, or increases its transit use to 75%.

Density working in NYC? Transit-oriented development working in NYC? Growth being "managed smartly" in NYC?

and by "all day" I mean "24 hour".

It's unfortunate when someone feels so passionately about something but then ruins their argument by throwing out exaggerated numbers that only undermine their credibility...

For instance, Adron wrote "You know, the places where you drive 50+ miles a day to do basic things for life needs, drive 50+ miles to go do some fun stuff, drive a dozen or so miles for the daily commute. Spend 400-700 dollars a month on fuel for those real active people."

Let's do some math. At his low end of monthly fuel costs, $400 = 160 gallons of gas (at $2.50 per gallon). 160 gallons = 3200 miles per month at 20 mpg (BTW, not many normal folks put 38k on their cars annually).

But to continue - 12 mile commute (let's assume one way) x 22 days a month = 528 miles. 50 miles a day for basic stuff x 22 days = 1100 miles. 50 miles a day for fun stuff x 4 weekends = 400 miles. Let's add it up: 528 + 1100 + 400 = 2028. We're nowhere near the 3200 miles that $400 buys, and remember, he said $400-$700 a month for gas.

I hate to be a nit-picking ball-buster, but that sort of rhetoric automatically makes me assume that the writer is a person who isn't prepared to debate the issue logically.

A better way would be hubs with lower density (like Hillsboro) where people can buy housing within 5 mintues of work.

They indeed can and sometimes do manage this initially, but the facts are that, within a household, (1) both spouses often work, (2) the average job turnover occurs every 3-4 years, and (3) real estate is very expensive to flip over, and the tax code doesn't favor it as well for a job change within a metropolitan area. Hence, one or both of them end up getting split from their job location, and they end up commuting to the far reaches of the metropolitan area - on a road system designed for farm-to-market and low density residential usage.

"Shouldn't MarkDaMan be focused on his CoP job at 145 in the afternoon since he is not too great at learning how to deal with people?"

-Hmmm, Steve, would you like to tell me something I don't know about myself? Last time I checked my job wasn't with the city of Portland (or any other government job) nor, at 1:45, was I on work time. It speaks volumes about a person when they make asinine assumption based on nothing.

Jack you bemoan the loss of Portland icons with the construction of these condo/retail towers, but how will the creation of new highways help save those icons. If you wish to see a Target, Denny's, Applebee, McDonalds, and Supercuts at every intersection then by all means support new highways.

I'm not averse to highway construction, but please I think both sides of this debate have unrealistic expectations. The tax breaks that the developers receive are appalling, but people are buying those condos at crazy prices and I will not hold that against them nor people who wish to tend their yards. I-5 through Portland and the I-5 Bridge must be fixed and perhaps 205 South of the OC Bridge widened, but slicing through Forest Park, a three lane highway down 99W or 99E, are poor choices.

i've read a lot of history of highway construction, especially in Oregon.

the stories always--always--go like this:

0. government proposes building or expanding a highway to accomodate growth.

1. citizens or a group oppose the highway or expansion.

2. government says it needs to be built or else there'll be serious problems.

3. roads and development are built.

4. roads fill up to capacity and more buildings are built.

return to 0 and repeat.

when will it become clear enough that there will *never* be enough roads, rails, etc.?

Morgan:Read Sandra Tsing Loh's hilarious "guide to the LA school system," where she describes the "steady stream to Portland" of parents who've given up on educating their kids in LA schools.

Given the fact that Portland Public Schools' enrollment keeps falling, this steady stream is evidently not coming to the city, or at least not to the part of the city covered by PPS (meaning all but the outer-east bits). If the "steady stream" is not in fact entirely fictional, I'd guess it's going to Washington County or Clark County instead, and that LA writers are using "Portland" very loosely, the same way that Oregonians use "LA" to refer to just about all of California south of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads.

True enough. It looks as though we've already built a pair of handbaskets. And named them Walt and Jean.


I understood that between your steps 3 & 4, there are intermediate steps:

3. roads and development are built.
3A. Freeways and highways fill to gridlock relatively quickly, when drivers who had shunted to less-travelled local arterials shift back to the "faster" new freeways and highways.
3B. Gridlock created on freeways and highways encourages switchers and new arrivals to utilize local arterials, which, with the shift of major traffic loads to highways, briefly operate better than the freeways and highways.

4. roads fill up to capacity and more buildings are built.

Freeways and highways generate their own demand, right up to the point where gridlock occurs.

Also, freeway building tends to build for the periods that are gridlock (rush hours) so that the investment in wider freeways is largely wasted by underutilization during off-rush hours (basically 1/5th to 1/6th of the 24 hour period the road surface is used.)

Lastly, whoever convinced federal authorities to allow freeways to be built through city centers should be severely reprimanded. The freeways were to be the mechanism to move people and goods rapidly between major transportation areas. Building the things into the city centers made them into commuter parking lots...not means of rapidly moving goods around the country. It was a stupid move, which should never have been done in the first place. But then, the interstate freeways system was a boondoogle of the 1950s, pushed through as a "defense" measure, until somebody pointed out that the bridges crossing the freeways were too low to allow the rolling ICBMs to pass under them. It made a damned effective means of displacing the poverty-stricken, though.

Your lecture on induced demand is pure propoganda. You've been hoodwinked.

That entire "they'll just fill up" pitch is balderdash.

I could say the same about a new school or anything new,, and pitch that it shouldn't get built because people will use it.

Of course the anti-road/car folks want people to belive that if we build roads it will trigger "new" car use and lure people out of "transit" and into or back into their cars.

It's all just BS excuses to not build roads.

Uh.... Grammy? I think you need to check your facts. Few aside from JK would dismiss the notion that freeways attract congestion.

I think we all need to remember that there is no room for new freeways. Sure, we can maximize the efficiency of current freeways.... I think most people are in agreement that we should eliminate bottlenecks and expand freeways like I-5 thru the Rose Quarter.

But the simple fact is, we can't just build a bunch more freeways!

So let's hear some real suggestions from you roadies! (you know who you are!)

We need creativity, not complaints. I know, I know, its difficult with this crowd, but I think you guys can do it ;)

Oh...We can build new freeways and expand the existing ones. They tore out extensive amounts of urban neighborhoods across the country to build what currently exists. The questions become "At what cost?" and "Does it truly address the problem?"

From my readings, it seems that, amongst transportation specialists, urban economists and planners all agree that additional capacity spurs induced travel and any increases in capacity will either fill to gridlock quite quickly, or be so costly as to be prohibitive.

A recent edition of the Journal of Urban Economics had an article by economists Clifford Winston and Ashley Langer, entitled "Effect of Government Highway Spending on Road Users' Congestion Costs" (JUE, 60(3):463-83, Nov. 2006) which reiterates this piece of accepted knowledge by citing Anthony Downs' noted comments in his 1992 book, Stuck in Traffic, updated in his Still Stuck in Traffic, that freeway expansion, particularly inside urban areas DOES NOT EFFECTIVELY REDUCE TRAFFIC CONGESTION ON THOROUGHFARES.

This has also been supported by the more empirical studies carried out by the likes of planner/engineer/economist Robert Cervero in his study of several freeway expansions in California during the late 1990s. That study can be found online at http://www.brookings.edu/views/papers/winston/200605-aeijc.pdf . It has been published in the Journal of the American Planning Association 69(2): 145-163, Spring 2003.

I invite you to peruse the bibliographies of either or both articles for even more articles in peer-reviewed journals of professionals working with transportation problems.

Perhaps Grammy can provide us information as to where her assertions arise from?

At the risk of sounding like I'm repeating myself while addressing children, we need to widen and expand our freeway networks because of the huge amount of people moving to the suburbs of Portland who use automobiles as their primary means of transportation. Many more people means much more demand for freeways, not the other way around, which, by the way, is a simple logical fallacy you may have heard of called a "non sequitur."

You can either acknowledge this fact straight up, or you can engage in disingenuous doubletalk. No amount of social engineering will get entire families and their kids onto the MAX and out of their SUVs, regardless of the claims of the social engineers and the people with a vested interest in mass transit construction.

Is the PDX metro area getting to the size where we need commuter trains in addition to freeways as wide as normal freeways ? Of course-we need both. We also need to require the people to use Tri-Met to pay for at least 15 percent of it's operating costs, before the entire local government is driven into bankruptcy.

Personally, the more people that use mass transit, the better for me, because this will increase my revenues, as well. I make plenty of money off of people who find that Tri-Met and the automobile-free lifestyle can only do so much for them, to their great disappointment. But I'm not so blinded by this that I can't see the whole picture.

New York City has both 54% transit ridership *and* nearly all day rush hour traffic, with a year-long study predicting a 24-hour-a-day rush hour and overflowing public transit within about a dozen years.


surely, additional highways and public transit would solve the problem?


We do not need to expand our freeways. Increasing costs to operate internal combustion engine vehicles is only going to go up as a proportion of every driver's person budget. For most, that means that more judicious use of what vehicles remain will most likely be the situation. Why dump all those assets into something which has a built in limitation? No social engineering necessary...just let the market decide, eh?

That means no more subsidies for internal combustion engine vehicles...no more asphalt, no more bridges, no more divided lanes with striping...unless the users pay for it. Toll expressways - coming your way!

"That means no more subsidies for internal combustion engine vehicles."

Once again, another specious factoid from Godfry. Where do you get this auto subsidy business from anyway?

FYI, freeways and highways are not only for single passenger automobiles, but for commercial trucking, emergency vehicles, commuter buses and interstate commerce. They're also are used as power, sewer and communication thoroughfares.

State and local gas taxes and user fees pay for the vast majority of roadways. Any extra taxes pay for an integral part of our society -- roads.

Hey, Chris...

Specious, my ass.

Try reading the history of the interstate freeway system. That's subsidies second only to the land-giveaway to the private railways a century earlier.

There is no city gas tax in the Portland area. Also the state and federal taxes on gasoline and diesel do NOT cover the costs of maintenance, much less capacity expansion, per Jim Whitty, from the Oregon Department of Transportation, who "says Oregon's gas tax used to bring in more than 60 per cent of their road maintenance budget, but that number is dropping. He says within the next decade, all states can expect to see a serious drop in the amount of money brought in through gas taxes. Whitty was appointed by Oregon's legislature to find a solution to the problem. Whitty says part of the problem is that people won't vote for a higher gas tax. In order to make up the coming shortfall, the Oregon Legislature would have to increase taxes so it would make the same amount of money from fewer gallons. But Oregon hasn't increased its gas tax in 13 years, and Whitty says there's no indication the legislature is going to ever want to raise the tax."

Let me reiterate that for the slow ones: only 60% of road maintenance costs are covered by fuel taxes.

So...If fuel taxes can't even cover the costs of maintenance of present roads, then roads and all support mechanisms for vehicular usage of the roads is subsidized by public revenue sources that are NOT fuel taxes. They are subsidized. Additionally, any expansion of said infrastructure must be wholly subsidized using non-fuel taxes.

I'm perfectly aware that there are internal combustion engine vehicles out there that a personal automobiles. It's just as the cost of fuels go up, lots of trade-offs are made and costs are shifted. This means that the additional costs of fuel will be paid by those purchasing products which require hauling the product to its market destination. Private passenger vehicles don't seem to have this option, so said owners will either eat the increases in cost or substitute some other means of accomplishing their purpose...such as electronic commuting or mass transit. Besides, when it comes to "gridlock" the problem is not the delivery vehicles, interstate trucking or emergency vehicles, but all the asinine drivers commuting to and from work with only the driver being accomodated.

Wake up some time before getting behind the wheel of your car and putting your brain in neutral.

Wait...let me correct that:

In the past only 60% of road maintenance costs were covered by fuel taxes, now it's even less.

"Increasing costs to operate internal combustion engine vehicles is only going to go up as a proportion of every driver's person budget."


You can already buy a Mercedes SMART car (smaller than a MINI) that gets 60 MPG. We'll be importing $10,000 econoboxes from China in the next few years.

Toyota/Honda/VW already sell hybrids or diesels that get 45 MPG.

Heck, with all this competition, I'll bet GM and Ford will have a true 40 MPG car in the showrooms by this time next year.

I'm currently getting 15 MPG in my Dodge SUV and I don't plan on giving it up until the price of gas exceeds $5/gallon and/or Portland starts an aggressive road rebuilding program (I need the ground clearance and fat tires to traverse the potholes). Translation: if the cost of gasonline becomes prohibitively expensive, many of us will buy more fuel efficient cars and/or drive less.

The horseless carriage is not going away: those of you trying to restart the buggy-whip industry will suffer the same fate as that last crowd of car-haters.

" Also the state and federal taxes on gasoline and diesel do NOT cover the costs of maintenance, much less capacity expansion..."

Nice try, but no cigar.

Here's the actual quote: "Jim Whitty, from the Oregon Department of Transportation, says Oregon's gas tax used to bring in more than 60 per cent of their road maintenance budget, but that number is dropping."

Do you see the word "federal gas tax" in there, Godfry? What about weight/mile taxes? DMV user fees? Licensing fees? Registration fees? Add in all those user fees and it comprises the vast majority of ODOT's budget.

As a matter of fact, the lottery and general fund contribute about 1% to ODOT's total budget

Here's the real skinny:

State funds (based on $3.895 million total)
The major sources of ODOT’s revenue include:
• motor fuels or gas tax (30%);
• weight-mile tax (16%);
• driver and vehicle licenses and fees (17%); and
• revenue bonds (21%).
The remaining 16% of revenue comes from:
• cigarette tax revenues dedicated to elderly and disabled transit;
• matching funds from state and local sources;
• loan payments from local agencies;
• lottery funds; and
• a variety of transportation-related permits and fees.

Keep trying though -- at least you're tenacious, if not delusional.

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